The Best Dog Backpacks & Saddlebags
for Hiking & Camping in 2023
If you and your dog are both adventurous types, there’s nothing better than taking to the trails together. And when your dog is big enough, you can have him or her carry some of your much-needed hiking supplies.
However, much like a poorly-made backpack can hurt your back or just make you uncomfortable, a dog backpack or saddlebag set that doesn’t fit properly is likely to make your dog unhappy on your adventures. To help you choose the ideal pack for your dog, we’ve selected the top six dog backpack and saddlebag solutions we could find.
Our Top List
Last update on 2023-03-27 at 12:36 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
1. GrayCell Travel Hiking Backpack
This pack is versatile and durable–it’s made of 600denier cloth and is lined with soft mesh. Its design features a padded harness and built-in leash clip, so you don’t need a separate collar when keeping your dog on-lead. Plus, it includes a collapsible silicone dog bowl, which is perfect for giving your pet water while on the go. Roomy pockets mean you can carry plenty of dog food and water, along with some extra supples of your own.
- Includes wide reflective strips to keep your dog visible at night
- Built-in leash clip and harness means you don’t need a separate collar
- Soft-lined, adjustable straps mean your dog will stay comfortable
- Plenty of pocket space lets you carry necessary items
2. OneTigris Backpack for Dogs
If you prefer a rustic, rucksack-style pack, this cotton canvas pack offers a supple, comfortable pack for your dog. It’s made in true saddlebag style, with two side zippered compartments, each of whichhas a semi-open pocket for easily accessible items like treats. It features adjustable straps and has a D-ring clip for a lead.
- Attractive, vintage-style construction is a great choice for those who want to stand out.
- Plenty of pack space for water, food, treats, etc.
- Cotton canvas is soft and won’t pull on fur.
- Adjustable straps make sure you get the perfect fit every time.
3. Ruffwear Palisades Backpack
If you need an expandable, adjustable, and heavy-duty pack for long hikes and camping trips, this is a great offering. One thing that sets it apart immediately is the fact that it has two one-liter hydration bladders, which can be collapsed once they’re used. And since the included saddlebags and hydration bladders together can make this pack a bit heavy, the saddlebags are removable, and the pack includes a handle so you can assist your dog on difficult climbs.
- Padded chest harness keeps the pack on securely and keeps your dog comfortable.
- Can carry much more water than most packs.
- Saddlebags can be removed when your dog needs a break, or when you reach a rest stop.
- Included load compression system keeps everything neatly packed.
4. Mountainsmith K-9 Dog Pack
If your dog is particular about fit or has an unusual size, this is apack worth looking into. Unlike many packs, which adjust only at the bottom, this one features adjustment capabilities at the top, too. Each side of the pack features a large compartment. Each has zippered outer accessory pockets that let you store waste bags, treats, and other items you might need to get to quickly. Its padded chect harness keeps your dog comfortable, even with relatively heavy loads.
- The ripstop nylon construction is resistant to wear and tearing.
- Its side zippered compartments are larger than those on many dog saddlebags.
- The ability to adjust at the top makes it easier to achieve a custom fit.
- A padded chest harness and padded grip handle makes it more comfortable for both you and your dog.
5. Ruffwear – Approach Pack for Hiking with Dogs
This bag’s bright colors and clean lines make it stand out almost instantly. Its side pockets are designed to push most carrying weight forward, helping you dog stay balanced. It’s also capable of handling rougher terrain–comfortable, non-slip straps ensure that the bag won’t come loose as you travel. And as far as storage space, this pack has plenty–each half-moon shaped side compartment has a smaller front zipper for storing quick-access items. The pack also comes in five different sizes, making it easy to find just the right fit.
- It comes in five sizes for multiple breeds.
- Padded and non-slip straps add comfort and security.
- It comes in bright, attractive colors.
- Large side compartments have plenty of room to store hiking and camping necessities.
6. Lifeunion Adjustable Service Backpack
If you want a super-durable, waterproof option, this dog saddlebag set is an excellent choice. With a padded chest harness and large, balanced side bags, anything you pack will stay secure. The top portion of these is also padded, which will keep your dog’s back comfortable. And like many saddlebag sets, this one has a padded handle so you can help your dog jump over obstacles or navigate steep inclines.
- This set has larger saddlebags than most, giving you extra space to pack your dog’s essentials.
- The bright orange coloring makes it easier for your dog to be seen.
- Extra padding on straps and back keeps your dog comfortable cushioned.
- Manufacturer includes detailed sizing chart to help you choose the proper size for your dog.
Each of the dog backpacks and saddlebags listed above has its merits. And while no single bag is best for every single dog, we’ve studied the options and have chosen the GrayCell pack, which is listed as number one on the list. We chose this pack for a number of reasons–its padded straps keep your dog comfortable, its large side bags let you pack plenty, and it comes with a collapsible silicone bowl, which is especially helpful when spending time on the trail with your dog. It also comes in bright colors and is equipped with reflective strips for safety.
Of course, while this is our pick, a different list item might be right for you and your dog. In the next section, we’ll go through some buying tips, as well as suggestions for getting your dog used to wearing a pack.
While the above selection is made up of our top picks, each dog/owner adventure combination has different needs. Before you rush out to buy the first backpack or saddlebag you see, there are a few things to keep in mind.
How Much Weight is Safe for Your Dog to Carry?
If you ever had to carry a too-heavy backpack in school, you know that too much weight on your back can cause considerable discomfort. And since your dog can’t tell you how much weight is too much, it’s important to have some guidelines in place.
Most dog experts suggest that you only allow your dog to carry 10 to 12 percent of their body weight. However, very strong dogs may be happy to carry a little more once they’ve gotten used to the pack. If your dog has any existing health issues or you want to make sure you aren’t asking them to carry too much weight, be sure to check in with your veterinarian about what weight is safe for your dog’s size, age, and health.
Many available dog backpacks are fairly lightweight. If you want your dog to be able to carry more items, check listings for the weight of the backpack itself. Be sure to weigh the full backpack before placing it on your dog to make sure you don’t go over the recommended weight.
How Do You Choose the Right Material?
When selecting dog saddlebags, there are two types of material to consider–the outer material and what rests against your dog’s body. If you plan to take your dog out in all kinds of weather, look for water-resistant outer material. Many of these packs are made of high-denier fabrics–the higher the denier, the sturdier the fabric. Some backpacks may be treated with a water-resistant coating, and it’s a good idea to look for these if you think you might get caught in the rain while hiking.
The part that rests against your dog’s body is also important. Especially when looking at the adjustable straps on a dog backpack, check to see if they’re padded. Especially if the bag is heavy or if the dog will be carrying it for awhile, padded straps will keep them comfortable. Padding on the underside of the bag itself is plus, especially for sensitive dogs.
Often, the listings for dog backpacks and saddlebags don’t give you the exact amount of space included in each pocket. In order to check to see how much space you’ll have, you may need to look closely at photos and read product specifications. Think about what your dog will need to carry on your adventures–in order to make the load easier for him or her to carry, make sure you’ll be able to distribute everything so the weight is spread evenly.
Getting Your Dog Used to Backpacks & Saddlebags
Buying a backpack or saddlebag for your dog is an exciting step as you prepare for a hiking adventure. However, in most cases, you can’t just load up a pack and expect your dog to carry it with no issues.
Instead, once your chosen backpack or saddlebag set arrives, first let your dog get used to wearing it empty. Some dogs will take to this step just fine, while others will be bothered and may need some adjustment time.
You’ll then need to get your dog used to carrying a bag full of weight. Especially if your dog isn’t in excellent physical condition, start with a small amount of weight and work up to the amount your dog will need to carry on your hike or other adventure. Some dogs may become a bit annoyed at first. But if your dog goes beyond annoyance and seems in pain, remove the pack and talk to your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Once your dog is used to carrying the full amount of weight, he or she will need some time to build up the necessary stamina to carry it long distances. To do this, start by taking your dog for walks with the loaded pack. Start with walks that are about half the length of your usual walks, and then increase the distance gradually. This will help your dog be prepared to carry a full pack, even if you’re hiking over difficult terrain.
When buying a pack for your dog, keep his or her comfort in mind, as well as the total capacity you need the pack to have. By choosing a pack that fits well, you can turn your loyal companion into an essential and helpful part of your next hiking or camping adventure.
We are the Pet Dog Pals, a group of avid pet owners, bloggers, product testers, and writers for all your canine needs! We own a collective 16 dogs and 21 cats to help us test and review pet products. Our top lists and tips come from experience to help you be the best dog owner you can be!